Our dairy is based in the river meadows at Stockton. There has been a dairy on this site for more than 100 years, and it is ideally situated for access to grazing fields.
We run 400 crossbred milkers, calving in February to April, and our aim to maximise milk yield from grazed grass. We have 165 hectares (408 acres) of grazing land, and this is intensively used in a rotational grazing system, so the cows have access to a fresh 1.5-2 hectare paddock after every milking, nine months of the year. The cows are milked twice a day, and receive cake in the parlour, with rates varying on a daily basis according to lactation stage, the weather, and the quality of the grazing that day. In November & December the herd walk further out and are often milked once a day, and graze forage rape on the arable land (grown after spring barley). Silage is fed from October to April when our grazing land cannot sustain the herd, and in May to September silage is cut from surplus grazing land. The herd is dried off in late December and January. We aim for milk output of 6,000 litres per year per cow.
Our milk is sold to Sainsbury’s. They have a significant interest in how our herd and farm is run, and put in place firm guidelines for herd management and welfare. They also have a strong focus on the carbon footprint of our herd and business. In return for this, they pay a good premium for the milk, and have a pricing structure that reflects cost of production, so even if milk prices are falling nationally, our price is maintained. We also receive a milk price bonus to reflect the low carbon, high welfare status of our herd, which comes as a result of not pushing our cows for yield, instead utilising grazed grass during the spring, summer and autumn months.
The herd is a mixture of dairy breeds, and our breeding policy is to produce a cow that lives a long time, gets in calf easily, and produces a reasonable amount of milk. They have to be tough enough to live most of the year outside as well. Breeds we have used are Friesian, Ayrshire, Shorthorn, Norwegian Red and Montbelliarde.
The dairy herd are served using AI for seven weeks before beef bulls are run. We aim to have 65% conception, so all the female progeny from these pregnancies are our dairy replacements, usually around 130 head, so 260 cattle across the two year groups. The calves are grazed from 4 weeks old. They are grazed on the downland (131ha, 323 acres), through until December, then housed for a few weeks, and back out onto the downs for their second summer. They are served by stock bulls in May & June for calving into the dairy in February & March at two years old.